19 September 2019
Well, it seems to me the American firearms market has split into at least 2 pieces - first one is the "utility/cheap" market, where Ruger and Savage both play and to an extent they play it at different levels. For example Ruger has the old Single-Six .22 revolver, and a cheaper model with an aluminum frame. Rugers have always been tough, a good value for what you spend, but never have had and far as I can tell never aspired to the craftsmanship of old Winchester, Marlin, Colt, S&W, etc. Savage has usually been dealing towards the lower price market since founding, but, on and off they have made some really fine guns like the older M99s. One thing I will note is that the M-110 bolt guns from Savage have always provided top-drawer accuracy, with rare exceptions, and don't usually need any smithing on them to get them to shoot. You show me a M110 shooting big groups, and I'll show you either something wrong with the scope or mounting, or a guy shooting junk ammo. Now apparently Remington has fallen on hard times, but even 20 years ago, they built a quite decent gun, have several M700s and a of course a M 870 pump 12 gauge, these are not exactly finely crafted, but decent guns.
Then you have the semi-custom market, the Coopers, the various Sharps builders, mostly small firms building bolt guns. These, it seems to me, are at as high a level of craftsmanship as you are going to get. The fine British builders will make a gun with that intangible "whatever" in greater abundance, but not likely to be that much better a gun. To an extent, modern CNC machining has made it possible to make an "old school" construction gun that in the past required a lot of hand fitting, without all the hand work.
But I agree that the European makers do make something more like the old American makers used to make. Particularly Steyr and CZ. And the CZ guns are something of a bargain, considering what you get, both in terms of cosmetics and performance. Of course you have Italian firms like Perazzi, who make shotguns, at least, to as high a standard as I think can be accomplished by mortal men. But you pay for that. Still, as Ferris Buehler said: "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend you pick one up!" FN guns are also quite finely crafted, not up to Perazzi's standard, but not up to their price either.
Anyway, for whatever it's worth, I'm out there, bit younger than you, about to turn 62, and, yes, I do appreciate and seek out guns built to a high level of craftsmanship.